On Tuesday, February 28, President Cornwall held a faculty debriefing concerning the recent Board of Trustees meeting. Although the meeting covered an abundance of important information, one specific agenda point included the discussion of implementing a three-year on-campus living requirement for undergraduates.
Currently, undergraduate students are required to live on campus their first two years at Rollins. The two-year on-campus living requirement was only set in place around 2007, and before that the requirement was only one year. However, multiple studies within Rollins have shown students living on campus tend to have higher GPA’s, are more engaged within the Rollins community, and have a higher retention rate compared to their off-campus counterparts. This positive correlation association between on-campus housing and overall collegiate success has prompted Rollins to consider this new requirement.
Although this plan to implement a three-year living requirement may be breaking news to the students, it is old news to the faculty and staff. Former college President Lewis M. Duncan sparked the idea between the years of 2005 and 2006, as he felt increasing the number of undergraduates on campus was essential to students receiving the most out of their liberal arts degree experience. As soon as President Cornwall joined Rollins, he made it very clear having 80% of undergraduates on campus was one of his top priorities as well.
Senior Director of Residential Life and Explorations Leon Hayner said, “Currently, about 35% of Rollins students are not living on campus. If about 1/3 of our student body is absent during campus events, then what does that mean for all of the other students’ experiences?”
Student engagement is the top priority for all faculty and staff at Rollins, specifically members of Residential Life and Explorations. The growth and development of students correlates with their involvement on campus, tying directly with the college’s mission; therefore, if some students’ experiences are negatively affected by off-campus living, then the college hopes to step in and resolve that issue.
However, this plan will not be an immediate implementation within the Rollins living community. Ideally, the proposed plan would occur within the next 3-5 years, but there are many other actions that must occur before Rollins can hold 80% of the student body on campus. Currently, the Rollins residential halls hold about 1300 beds— 80% of student body on campus would require around 1600 beds. Clearly, there is not enough space at the moment; however, the school plans to build another residential hall to accommodate for those extra bodies in the future.
When discussing the plan with current Rollins students, many expressed opposition to the 3-year requirement.
“Part of college is preparing yourself for the real world. Part of that preparation is living in your own home and the responsibilities that come with it, such as cooking, cleaning, and paying bills on time. The 3-year requirement would take away that valuable life experience. Also, if students are forced to live in campus for 3 years, then they might just saw screw it and live all four,” said sophomore Ben Grant ‘19.
The possibility of students wanting to live on campus all four years is definitely a factor members of Residential Life are using to weigh in on both the practicality of the implementation, and the time span in which it is brought to campus.
“One challenge concerns the culture of the campus changing. Going from the current preference of off-campus living, to a culture where all students, including seniors, want to live on campus. We would need the flexibility and the room to hold all students, because we cannot just tell seniors ‘Sorry time to live off campus now’ after we required them to live on campus all three years before that,” said Leon Hayner.
Not only is real-world preparation a concern for upperclassmen, but also living on-campus is more expensive. “I have been looking into living off campus for next year, and rent prices for a year lease are notably less than the eight months we spend living in residential housing,” said sophomore Jeanne Amend ‘19. “If I were an incoming freshman, living on campus for three years would definitely impact my decision to come to Rollins.”
Residential Life and Exploration members are well aware of the financial stresses living on campus causes for students. With that, they are planning to modify meal plan prices to provide more flexibility for students who choose to live on-campus. For example, they are currently working to eliminate the $300 overhead fee applied to meal plans each semester, which go towards maintenance and repairs. This fee would instead be spread out across the college with other fees and make meal plans nearly $600 cheaper.
Obviously, there are still many aspects to the plan the college must continue to revisit. From modified meal plans to more privatized living situations, the future of Rollins’ housing structure may change dramatically. However, Leon Hayner wants to ensure the student body, “Nothing is finalized until it happens.”
It is important to remember this plan is still only a proposal. The group working on creating the campus masterplan must go through a wide range of proposals, paperwork, and planning. These sequential documents may occur quickly, but most likely they will take a lot of time to organize and correlate with the rest of the campus. Current students should not have to worry about their living arrangements changing anytime soon or within their undergraduate time at Rollins.